Montour County Readdressing Completed

The third and final wave of change-of-address letters for Montour County, Riverside Borough, and Rush Township was sent in mid-August. The readdressing, which was part of the 911 consolidation with Columbia County, was prolonged due to conflicts found in the Danville zip code. Businesses and residents that have not received a change-of-address letter should call the GIS office at 570-387-4930.

The post office will recognize old addresses for a period of one year from the initial notification. Additional information, including links to forms to update drivers’ licenses with PennDOT and business addresses with the PA Department of Revenue, is available at the Montour County website.

Chamber to Co-Host Candidate Forums for Bloomsburg and Danville Local Elections

Candidates for Bloomsburg Town Council and Danville Borough Council will share their thoughts on the issues facing these communities at public events this fall. Community members will also be invited to submit questions. The candidate forums are being presented by the Joint Governmental Affairs Committee of the Chamber and Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau.

The Candidate Forum for the Danville Borough Council candidates will he held Tuesday, Sept. 19, from 6-8 p.m. at the Danville Ballroom in Borough Hall on Mill Street.

The Forum for Bloomsburg Town Council candidates will be held Wednesday, Oct. 4 at the Alvina Krause Theatre, 226 Center Street in downtown Bloomsburg. The forum for general Council will begin at 6 p.m., followed by a second session for the registered Mayoral candidates beginning at 7:35 p.m.

All registered candidates have been invited to participate. A series of questions developed by the Committee will be presented to each candidate in rotating order. Written questions submitted by audience members will be presented, time permitting.

Revenue Debates Continue as State Exhausts Short-Term Loan

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Another week has gone by without the enactment of legislation that would finalize the 2017-18 state budget. As legislative leaders continue to negotiate behind the scenes on a plan that would warrant bringing the entire General Assembly back into session for a vote this month, the state has officially exhausted the funds on a $750 million loan that the Treasury Department issued earlier this month to keep the General Fund above a zero balance.

“While this short-term borrowing will be repaid by August 23rd, we forecast that without some action, the General Fund balance will again fall below zero by August 29th,” Treasurer Joe Torsella said in a statement. He further noted that the balance will fall to -$1.6 billion around Sept. 15; warned about a potential credit rating downgrade as a result of the ongoing impasse; and strongly indicated that future loans are no guarantee in these types of situations. “Treasury’s Short Term Investment Pool is not a Rainy Day Fund … an overly concentrated loan by the Pool to the General Fund – at a time when the underlying budget is $2.2 billion out of balance, revenues are declining, and we are still without an enacted revenue package – would represent a substantial investment risk,” Torsella added.

This being the case, lawmakers and the administration are certainly feeling more pressure to finalize budget negotiations. The Wolf administration – which has generally been optimistic about the status of the ongoing debate – are now saying that the House needs to come back to session and vote on the series of budget-related bills the Senate sent them late last month. The House hasn’t returned to Harrisburg since that time, due in large part because of what House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, recently told reporters – his caucus has concerns about some of the taxes included in the Senate bills.

The House’s next session day is Sept. 11, though members technically remain “on call” and could be asked to return to Harrisburg before then. The Senate is also on call, but isn’t scheduled to reconvene until Sept. 18.

Working to Build a Stronger Workforce

Quality employees are important to any size and type of employer. The most successful businesses in our area, particularly those in manufacturing, often cite a skilled and dedicated workforce a key component of that success. The Chamber and its Foundation work to strengthen the area’s current and future workforce in supporting members. The Chamber’s Board of Directors recently approved a policy statement in support of workforce development efforts.

These efforts include:

  • Increasing the emphasis on and funding for internships, apprenticeships, and mentoring programs
  • Collaboration among high schools, technical schools, universities, and educators to meet the needs and concerns of the Commonwealth’s employers
  • Promoting vocational career pathways and earning potential to students at a young age
  • Training employers on workforce development best practices

While some of these efforts focus on skilled trades, others attempt to address issues cited by all types of employers, such as work ethic, lack of interpersonal skills, and an inability to communicate confidently and maturely. The Chamber and its Foundation are finalizing a workforce development plan in line with this policy.

The Affordable Care Act, Law of the Land – Still

From ChamberChoice

In the early morning hours of July 28, 2017 the Affordable Care Act withstood another effort by the Republicans to repeal and replace it. Opposition to the “Skinny Bill” won during the most recent Senate action, and so, repeal and replace appears to come to a halt. The bill was referred to as “skinny” as it would have eliminated the individual mandate penalty and temporarily repealed the employer mandate penalty and medical device tax.

So, the question now becomes, what next? Below are some of the issues that our lawmakers will be taking into consideration:

• Take steps to ensure the stability of the individual insurance market; or
• Pursue strategies that will quicken the demise of the ACA (such as destabilizing the insurance market;
• Stop payment of the Cost Sharing Reduction (these are funds the government provides to insurers to help cover out-of-pocket expenses for low income individuals);
• Further advocate “State Innovation Waivers” which allows states to implement their own innovative ways to provide quality, comprehensive and affordable health while maintaining basic protections under the ACA; or
• Enforcement of both the individual and employer mandate penalties through a separate Executive Order overriding the Order issued on January 20th suspending ACA-implementation.

Although it appears that the Affordable Care Act is in a state of flux, for employers it could not be further from the truth. The ACA remains the “law of the land”, employers need to stay the course with their ACA compliance priorities until further notice. The employer mandate requires “applicable large employers” (ALEs) to offer minimum essential coverage that is minimum value and affordable to 95 percent of its full-time employees and their dependents. Failure to offer such coverage can result in penalties. The associated ACA reporting requirements are also still effective, ALEs who failed to provide Form1095-C to its full-time employees, or Form 1094-C to the IRS should discuss this issue with their legal counsel. The penalty for failing to issue a 1095-C is the same as failure to provide a W-2; $250 per failure in 2016 and $260 per failure in 2017. However, there is another jolt to this point, since the 1095-C is required to be provided to the employee and to the IRS, those penalty amounts would be doubled. An employer’s determination of being an ALE is based on having an average of 50 full-time/full-time equivalent employees in the preceding calendar year. 

As to what will happen in the future as to any repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act remains to be seen. However, unless and until official guidance to the contrary is provided, ongoing compliance with the law is required.